Analysis |

In Israel, a Terrible Defeat for LGBTQ Families Seeking Recognition

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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A Tel Aviv protest against the government's opposition to the adoption of children by LGBT couples, 2017.
A Tel Aviv protest against the government's opposition to the adoption of children by LGBT couples, 2017.Credit: Moti Milrod
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

A ruling by the Tel Aviv family court Thursday to revoke the adoption of two children of same-sex parents represents a painful human story, but also a potential disaster for the LGBTQ community in Israel.

People have been protesting for years, writing letters, arguing before the courts, facing nosy questions and constantly having to convince the authorities and so many people that parenting – even good and safe parenting – doesn’t have to stem from a biological connection. But now they see how a court does away with the parental bond they’re fighting for.

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The story has to do with two women who were in a relationship. One of them gave birth to two children, who were adopted by her partner. In April 2015, the nonbiological mother had a child and the two women split that year, before adoption proceedings for the child were completed by the two older children’s biological mother.

The court ruling shows that the adoption requests cited a strong bond between the children and their nonbiological mother, even quoting the biological mother as saying her daughter is closer to her partner than to her.

After the couple split, the women filed requests to revoke the adoption of the first two children. Such requests are so rare that their lawyers, Kinneret Bar-Lev and Shmuel Moran, struggled to find any legal precedent; according to Bar-Lev, adoption had been revoked only once in Israel. The LGBTQ community must be unhappy with the precedent achieved in its name. 

It was the state, which is often hostile to LGBTQ parents seeking the court’s help, that presented a logical stance under which parents can’t divorce their children, and parenthood by adoption is not inferior to the biological one – which obviously can’t be revoked.

True, the judge stated that expert opinions backed revoking the adoption – not an unimportant consideration. But it’s hard to remain indifferent to the ruling and the circumstances of the case.

Without questioning the expert opinions presented to the court, the ruling that the nonbiological mother’s “image as a functional and psychological parent hasn’t been etched in the minors’ mind” is a peculiar one, as she had lived with the children from the day they were born until they were 2 and 5, and the adoption requests cited the bond between them.

One shouldn't judge people in their time of great pain or by their life circumstances – the two women blame each other for their unfortunate situation – and horrible things happen to heterosexual families, too But this drastic shift from starting a family and declaring an intention to raise children together to such an extreme rift, epitomized by revoking parenthood, is nothing short of shocking.

It provides the most effective ammunition to opponents of the LGBTQ community, as there you see, as soon as a relationship ends – a common scenario in all types of families – the parental commitment is gone, as if it were only a whim.

Formal recognition of adoption or parenthood isn’t a jacket to be worn or taken off at any moment. Once a person becomes a parent, biological or otherwise, this becomes their ultimate commitment.

If this case sets a precedent, the rights of the LGBTQ community, which has struggled for years to allow alternative family models, will be dramatically reduced. This is a sad, disturbing day for the community.

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